Colonial Williamsburg, VA, in Winter
By Candyce H. Stapen
Colonial Williamsburg, the U.S. most well-known living history museum, is the kind of place you can visit many times. In winter, the Historic Area, looks lovely dappled with snow and decorated with real wreaths, fragrant pine cones and flickering candles. Come here for a surprisingly affordable, romantic getaway that comes with a bonus of 18th century history.
On its 301 acres, Colonial Williamsburg features more than 500 buildings, shops, homes and taverns of the type that stood here in the 1770s just prior to the Revolution. In this period, the colonial capital of Virginia bred independent politics and drew radicals such as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.
Although winter is cold, the Historic Area looks lovely dappled with snow and decorated with real wreaths, fragrant pine cones and flickering candles. Forget about plastic blow-up Santas or strings of lights. Such modern decorations aren’t permitted. And neither are cars. That makes strolling Duke of Gloucester, the area’s main street, even more appealing.
Historic Williamsburg lets you see life as the colonists did. Among the buildings to tour are the Governor=s Palace decorated with bayonets, muskets and rifles that proclaimed the Crown=s power and the Capitol, home to the law-making General Assembly.
A visit to the powder magazine, courthouse, wigmaker, milliner, apothecary and shoemaker showcase 18th century life. At the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Gallery see some of the finest examples of 17th through early 19th century furniture, silver and lace. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center houses one of the U.S.’s best collections of folk art.
To see beyond the area's commercialism, take part in the special programs. The clash between the characters' 18th century world and ours makes the time travel lively. At Order In the Court, learn about colonial justice and who could serve as jurors--only white, land-owning, Protestant men 21 years of age or older. During “In their Own Words: African Americans in the Revolutionary Era,” a walking tour, discover the painful choices African slaves had to make during the Revolution. In the evening, bundle up for ghost tours by lantern light.
Consider dining the first night at one of the Colonial taverns to get into the spirit of the place. (Book this when you book your lodging.) Even though the entrees are more adequate than memorable, the wooden tables aglow in candlelight and the costumed wait staff help transport you back two-hundred years. Plus sampling such 18th century southern staples as spoon bread, Carolina fish muddle (a stew), and peanut pie is fun.
Both the Trellis and the Blue Talon Bistro offer delicious meals within walking distance of the Historic Area. Whether you stay in the five star Williamsburg Inn or the more moderately priced Williamsburg Lodge, you will enjoy a winter visit to the 18th century.